Last night, I graciously accepted the 2014 NMSU Foundation Spirit of Service Award . I dedicated it to a few folks and I wanted to share my speech with my blog audience. I was the last of eleven people to get an award and had to follow Mother Hubbard and Coach Lou Henson (nothing like tough acts to follow – geez!)
After hearing the stories and resumes of my fellow honorees, I feel so inadequate… I just sell wine!
In 1967, a young man living in Madison, Wisconsin named Len Traina accepted a professorship position in the college of engineering at NMSU. He and his wife Judy and his family moved to sunny Southern New Mexico. Judy Traina was my father’s second cousin. The Traina’s reported back to their family in chilly Wisconsin how wonderful of a place Las Cruces was to live in. Soon many more family members moved down south. My grandparents, Chap and Ethel Paulson were some of them. So in 1973 my father, Pete Paulson moved down south and quickly met my mother Maribel Garcia. Judy was a material and infant nurse, and in 1980, she delivered this brown eyed girl with a full head of hair (more than I have now) at Memorial General Hospital (which is now Memorial Medical Center just down the street). So being an Aggie happened long before I was even a twinkle in my Daddy’s eye.This year both Judy and Len passed away. Judy at 78 and Len at 80. Part of this award is dedicated to Judy and Len Traina – for had they not ventured out to New Mexico and moved to Las Cruces for NMSU, I wouldn’t be in this world. Their son, Chris who lives in Sacramento now came to town for homecoming and is one of my guests tonight.
I would also like to dedicate this award to Dr. Dwight E Newton. At the young age of 16, I met and started working for Dr. Newton. He had recently retired from general surgery and had real estate property. Doc was also a retired Air Force Colonel. He was a navigator in the Air Force where he completed thirty-one missions during World War 2. He had three young women that worked for him. Funny side story, he was an original investor in Cimarron Health Care which President Carruthers owned. Now, I know that many eyebrows were raised in this community as Dr. Newton drug the three of us young and somewhat attractive ladies around town to many events. This event here would be a perfect example except that he would be the one winning the award. After high school graduation many of my friends chose to leave Las Cruces to further their education, but I stuck behind. I had a good job, a scholarship and no real reason to leave. At the time, I liked Las Cruces. Today the only thing that has changed is that I LOVE Las Cruces.
So while working for Dr Newton, I came to NMSU where I got my degree in Marketing. I was scheduled to graduate in December 2002. Being a typical college student in November, I realized I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Now I am not sure if you remember how this country felt at this time, but it was a year after 9/11. But, the country had a very different feeling at that time. We valued our relationships and pulled our loved ones in a little closer. Doc valued my relationship with him and I in turn valued his. So, in a very simple and short conversation Dr. Newton asked me what my next move was and I really didn’t know. He asked if I had considered getting my Master’s Degree. I really hadn’t- but getting my undergrad was fairly easy. I attended all my classes, worked at least two jobs and partied like an Aggie (yes, I wobbled) throughout my undergrad, why not? Doc was the ripe age of 77 and wasn’t ready to let me go yet. So he offered to pay for my Master’s Degree. By the time I had finished my masters I had worked for Doc for 8 years and he taught me so many life lessons that one could never learn from college (even this fine institution). The most valuable lesson was loyalty. Due to his military and surgical background – loyalty was number one in his book. Maybe it took him until his 70’s to realize it and so he chose to share this with his staff. I don’t think (no, in fact I know) he wasn’t a gem throughout his life, but he had this opportunity to make a difference in my life – and he did.
While taking what I recall was a Human Resources class at NMSU, we were taught that different generations had different employment behaviors. The people in the “Greatest Generation” had one job. They worked 40 years for Ford Motor Company. The “Baby Boomers” maybe had two careers that they stuck out for many years. And – as it was explained to me – the younger generations have become more selfish. It wasn’t, “What can I do for this company?” but rather, “What can this company do for me?” My professor at the time said if you want to set yourself apart in the in work world – find a company that you like to work for and stick with it. It was essentially what Dr. Newton had been teaching me all along. He was loyal to me and I was loyal to him. After a short 18 months, I graduated with my MBA where I met my now husband, Brandon. After 8 years I was finally off of that man’s payroll and it was time for me to enter the scary world of real employment. I struggled in the healthcare industry where I finally threw up my hands and said “this is for the birds”. By circumstance, my husband and I ended up in the New Mexico wine industry working for the incredible Lescombes family and St. Clair Winery.
Of all of the things that I learned from NMSU and Dr. Newton, I decided to try out this loyalty concept at this company. It was a small family business that had recently experienced tremendous growth and the perfect place for me to fall in love with my career, wine and food! This business takes New Mexico agriculture, artful winemaking, creative marketing, food and mashes them all together. Lucky me! When I first started at the winery I often joked that if they ever wanted to fire me they were going to have to physically remove me from the premises. My husband and I turned up the gage and threw ourselves and loyalty into the winery. It was this February that our loyalty paid off. The Lescombes family decided to be loyal right back to me after I got diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors, an incurable and unfair disease. So at this very moment I want to stand at the top of Thomas Hall and yell at the top of my lungs how grateful I am for my job, my employers and this family. But, I would be doing myself no justice if I didn’t pay it back to Dr. Newton and NMSU for teaching me about loyalty.
I am a loyal Las Crucen, a loyal Trojan (hence the green and gold outfit), a loyal Aggie and Packer Fan, and most importantly over the last 6 years, a very loyal employee of St Clair Winery.
Thank you Len and Judy Traina for paving the Aggie way for me, and thank you Dr. Newton for teaching me what loyalty is all about. Lastly, thank you NMSU for honoring me with such award and allowing me a platform to share just part of “my story”. Particularly, in front of my family but most importantly in front of my son… Jeremiah.